Women have played a vital role in the United States military as early as the Continental Army. But it wasn’t until World War I that women who were not nurses could enlist in the armed forces during wartime.
For Pfc. Tricia Chen, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist (CBRN) assigned to the 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team “Broncos”, 25th Infantry Division, it was during her senior year in high school, in October 2018, that she made the decision to enlist in the Army through the delayed entry program.
Chen and her twin sister Pfc. Tracy Chen were both influenced by a mutual friend in high school who enlisted in the Army Reserves after hearing her stories of basic training and advanced individual training.
“We wanted to do something hands-on and challenging,” she said. “My sister and I thought it would be challenging to enlist in the Army as a CBRN specialist and a great opportunity to learn something new.”
Chen and her sister began basic training in July 2019 after graduating high school and graduated basic training and then advanced individual training later that year at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
With her first duty station being in Hawaii as a Bronco, she was quickly assigned to a CBRN reconnaissance platoon where she is tasked to provide dismounted CBRN reconnaissance and surveillance and site assessment for platoon sized elements.
Chen has always had a special relationship with her twin sister. Despite the care and love for each other, they were always competitive with one another. This sense of competition did not stop with each other but it extended into everything they did and this is what drove her to serve in what some would consider a male-dominated field.
“Women in our field, and in the military in general, are definitely outnumbered. But instead of feeling small, I feel more motivated to prove myself and I feel empowered seeing other women in leadership,” she explained. “It makes me motivated to be like them and even better than them. Even though it’s a male dominated field, I’ve never felt anything less and feel like women can be as versatile and as strong. I don’t feel any different, it gives me more motivation to be better,” she continued.
This quarter, Chen was selected to compete in the Brigade Soldier of the Quarter competition which recognizes individual excellence for basic Soldier knowledge and skills in which she won the title as the Best Soldier of the Quarter.
“I hope my success shows other women that there are plenty of opportunities out there and that they don’t shy away from competition because they are women,” said Chen. “They should feel like they can compete at the same level as men and especially in a multi-functional battalion, women should take every opportunity to challenge themselves.”
With two years of service quickly approaching, Chen is determined to challenge herself even more.
“I plan on doing the green to gold program so I can commission as an officer,” she said. “As of right now I see the military as a long-term career and going back to school and commissioning as an officer will be the next step.”